Last month, Miller-McCune reported on barriers to the ballot box. Florida stood out, having been named by a coalition of voting rights groups as the state most hostile to voters. A federal court last week helped solidify that distinction with a ruling that could result in thousands of Floridians showing up to the polls in November to find their names not on the registration lists.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida upheld the state's so-called "no-match, no-vote" law, saying the measure was constitutional. The law allows county officials to reject new voter registrations if they don't identically match the name on the applicant's driver's license or the last four digits of his or her Social Security number.
An appellate court in April upheld the statute in a similar case in Florida based on alleged violations of federal law. No word yet whether the recent decision will be appealed.
"This is another unnecessary impediment for voters being able to exercise their rights in Florida," said Myrna Pérez,
counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice, which argued in court against the law. "This is such a foolish process, I would be very surprised if other states are encouraged by this."
Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning praised the court's decision, citing the need to prevent fraud and errors in voting while upholding the system's integrity.
The battle, however, isn't over yet, said Pérez. The recent ruling only pertained to a preliminary injunction, which would have put an immediate end to the law. The court could still decide to hold a trial on the matter with a standard that's
less burdensome, she said. But a possible trial date has not yet been set.
In the 2006 general election, roughly 12,000 voters were kept from the voting rolls in Florida because of the "no-match, no-vote" law. As Miller-McCune reported in June, court documents analyzing new voter applicants in December 2007 showed the no-match requirement disaffected minorities. The records showed that 66 percent of new applicants over the past two years were white, and they accounted for 17 percent of those who didn't match. Hispanics, on the other hand, comprised 16 percent of all new applicants but represented 39 percent of the still-unmatched category. Blacks, too, represented a larger percentage of those still unmatched than they did new applicants.
Voters barred because of the "no-match, no-vote" law are forbidden from fixing the problem at the polls by showing a photo ID, a requirement every eligible voter in Florida must already meet. Instead, they can fill out a provisional ballot
and then return to the county registrar to prove their identity within two days.
"It's a compounding problem at every step of the way," Pérez said. "It's hard for people to get on the registration list.
It's hard for third-party voters to register people. If they're lucky enough to jump through these hurdles, they have a photo ID law. How far are you going to take this? How many barriers are you going to put in front of voters? How many
obstacles are they supposed to go through?"
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